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NEWS | Nov. 28, 2023

Kentucky Guard wins national award

By Milt Spalding, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Kentucky National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry was recently honored with the 2023 General Walter T. Kerwin, Jr. Readiness Award. The unit received the award at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) national meeting and exposition October 9 in Washington, D.C.

This is the second time the battalion has received the award. The “Mountain Warriors” first received the award in 2013. The award is presented by the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) and the Reserve Officers Association (ROA). The battalion was also the recipient of the 2023 Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord Trophy which secured their entry for the Kerwin Award.

With a footprint spread across southeast Kentucky, the 1-149th IN produces “tough and resilient Soldiers who take pride in their heritage and service to the Commonwealth and nation,” said Col. Jason P. Penn, commander of the 75th Troop Command.

“Readiness is the foundation that allows units in the 75th Troop Command to provide manned, trained, and equipped forces that can support our nation's National Defense Strategy when called upon,” said Penn, a Barbourville native and former leader of the Mountain Warrior battalion.

“The fact that the 1-149 IN won the Walter T. Kerwin, Jr. Readiness Award for outstanding Army National Guard readiness speaks volumes to the Soldiers and Leadership of the Mountain Warriors and their desire to support and defend this nation. They are an outstanding unit and deserve all accolades presented to them,” Penn said.

The battalion's most recent assignments were its 2021-2022 dual-deployments to Kosovo and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in support of Operation Joint Guardian and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), respectively.

In Kosovo, approximately 200 Mountain Warriors from Headquarters and Headquarters Company in Barbourville, Springfield-based Delta Company, and Ravenna-based Charlie Company, served side-by-side with NATO partners to help maintain peace and stability in the Eastern European region.

Led by the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia Army National Guard (VARNG), this mission marked the thirtieth rotation for U.S. Soldiers performing this role in Kosovo.

Link: Mountain Warriors Complete NATO Mission

Another 170 soldiers from Hopkinsville-based Bravo Company along with scouts, snipers and mortars teams from Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Company out of Somerset, deployed to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Bravo Company, while tactically assigned to the VARNG’s 1-116th Infantry’s Task Force Red Dragon for the mission, supported U.S. Africa Command under CJTF-HOA and served a critical role in providing security, crisis response capabilities and partnership building throughout east Africa.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Hughes, the infantry battalion's outstanding readiness metrics in 2022 can be directly attributed to their increased training and readiness for both deployments and stateside response efforts from 2020 to 2022.

Throughout this period, the Mountain Warriors were always prepared, responding to multiple crises in the Commonwealth. This included the COVID-19 pandemic, civil disturbances in Louisville, presidential inaugurations in Washington, and the eastern Kentucky floods.

“The Kerwin Award recognizes the Soldiers' hard work and their contribution to the battalion's success. While the battalion-level command team may physically receive the award, it's truly a testament to the dedication of our individual units. We couldn't be prouder of our Mountain Warriors over these past few years,” said Hughes.

The award honors Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., a distinguished four-star U.S. Army general. He served as the commanding general of the U.S. Continental Army Command in 1973 and the U.S. Army Forces Command from 1973-1974, later becoming vice chief of staff from 1974-1978. Gen. Kerwin is renowned for promoting the "Total Army" concept, emphasizing the importance of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve serving and training alongside the active Army.

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